Unfortunately, young children are like the rest of us:
at some point, they will be personally affected by death. When that happens, how do you talk to
a child about death, about the process of dying, or how to be with a seriously-ill loved one?
Nobody quite knows the answer to these difficult questions, but The Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka may be an important tool in helping young children in these challenging circumstances.
This short picture book shares some reassuring thoughts about dealing with illness and dying. The writing is easy enough and straightforward enough for even very young children. It’s also non-denominational,
leaving the question of an afterlife untouched so that no one’s beliefs come under attack. The message is simple: “Dying is hard,” for the person dying and those who love him.
And “good help makes dying easier.” Underlying it all is that death and illness may be difficult, but they can be talked about
- that it can actually help to talk about them.
Children will be attracted to the colorful, clear illustrations; each balloon seems to have its own personality. The story moves along quickly, but the
range of emotion shown on these balloon faces is moving. They
are sad, sick, grieving, but there’s also the reminder of happier, more peaceful times.
again, they radiate love.
With text and illustrations that are gentle yet powerful, Raschka
(a Caldecott Award winner) manages to address the delicate
issue of dying with the calm voice a young child in this type of
situation needs to hear.